Design firm unveils proposed master plan for West Walnut Street redevelopment

Zach Vance • May 14, 2018 at 8:26 PM

Those who stopped by One Acre Cafe Monday afternoon for the unveiling of the West Walnut Street master plan got a sense of what the future of downtown Johnson City could look like. 

Two new greenspaces, a new streetscape with a dedicated bike plan and a cohesive stormwater treatment plan were among the various suggestions, made by consultants with design firm Kimley-Horn, on how to improve the corridor connecting downtown Johnson City to East Tennessee State University.

In August, city leaders hired Kimley-Horn to complete the master plan after a dedicated West Walnut Street task force spent nearly two years gathering stakeholder feedback and rezoning the district. 

“Today, we’re having a community open house where we’re just talking through what we want to see for West Walnut. It’s been incredible to work with because the community has been on the same page the whole time. As a consultant, you don’t get that a lot where the community is singing the same song, saying the same things about what they want for the area,” Kimley-Horn project manager Ben Miskelly said on Monday. 

“This all started with the (West Walnut Street) task force and with the city’s planning department basically interviewing the community, having meetings and setting up the background for what the community wanted. Then we followed that up with stakeholder interviews, with community members, with residents and property owners just to talk through how everybody saw this area working.”

After obtaining the data compiled by the task force, Miskelly said his team began disseminating the information and corroborating some of the feedback to ensure the final product fit the community’s vision. 

From 4-7 p.m., dozens of community stakeholders stopped by One Acre Cafe to provide additional suggestions and see how Kimley-Horn consolidated their suggestions into a refined plan. 

“We’ll take the input we gather today and use it to tweak some small things and make some final decisions. Then all of that will be crafted into the report that will be given to the city,” Miskelly said. 

One of the many proposals made by Kimley Horn is the creation of a few new greenspaces to manage flooding issues in the district. 

“Similar to Founders Park in design and use, this new stormwater park will be a focal point and vista that is walkable to the residents in the western portion of the Tree Streets Neighborhood. This park will also create an attractive edge and front for the redevelopment of the O.G. Kelley property,” one of the exhibits at the open house stated.

The planners have also proposed extending Cherokee Street to West State of Franklin Road to aide traffic distribution along West Walnut Street. 

“Traffic flow at the intersection of West Walnut Street and University Parkway can be effectively lessened with the creation of a connection at Cherokee Street. While this connection requires acquisition of right-of-way for Johnson City and the construction of a signal on State of Franklin, it also provides a new street frontage for the larger parcels to the west,” another exhibit stated. 

Additionally, each person who came to see the master plan had the opportunity to vote on two different streetscape layouts. The first proposal consisted of two traffic lanes and two parking lanes on each side to solve some of the parking issues in downtown. The second proposal still had two lanes of traffic, but included a dedicated bicycle lane and a single parking lane on the same side. 

As of now, no price tag has been attached to the master plan, but Johnson City officials have started budgeting for the redevelopment. 

Kimley-Horn officials hope to submit its final plan to the city within the next two months. In addition to the report, Miskelly said the city will be given an action plan on how to proceed with the first few steps of implementing the master plan. 

To submit more comments about the West Walnut Street redevelopment plan, email Miskelly at [email protected]




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